Bragging rights at stake in ‘River City Rumble’

Posted Jan. 20, 2009, at 9:04 p.m.

Bragging rights in the Greater Bangor wrestling world will be at stake Wednesday night when the third annual River City Rumble is held at Old Town High School.

The meet, scheduled to start at 6 p.m., features full teams from all of the Bangor-area high school wrestling programs — Brewer, Hermon, John Bapst of Bangor and Old Town — joined by individual competitors from Bangor High School and Central of Corinth.

The meet is the brainchild of current John Bapst coach Joe Bowen, who came up with the idea two years ago while coaching at Brewer.

Hermon won the first Rumble in 2007, and John Bapst earned the team title in 2008.

“First and foremost it’s about the local bragging rights,” said Bowen, who earned his 100th coaching win over four years at Brewer and one year at John Bapst last weekend when the Crusaders swept Woodland and Washington Academy of East Machias in a three-way meet.

“It’s also a final tune-up for the kids before the PVC and KVAC meets coming up this weekend.”

A unique twist of the competition is that it essentially serves as Senior Night for all of the senior wrestlers from the participating schools, who will be recognized before the matches begin.

Some 50 to 60 wrestlers will participate in the meet, and the battle for the team championship figures to be quite competitive.

John Bapst, 13-7 this season, hopes to use its strength in the middle-weight classes as the catalyst for a successful defense of its Rumble title. That group includes 135-pound John Frankland, who earned his 100th career victory last weekend, along with Lawrence DiPietro and Fred Lear.

Hermon features Ryan Botting and Bo Richards, while Brewer is led by Qasey Perry and Stephen Desjardins and Old Town boasts Lee Larry.

Among the top individual competitors is Central senior Mark Heathcoate, the defending Class B state champion at 285 pounds.

The Penobscot Valley Conference and Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championships are scheduled for Saturday, with the PVCs at Mattanawcook Academy in Lincoln and the KVACs at the Augusta Civic Center.

Milestone of consistency

Timmy Gross’s secret to success is not so secret.

“The kid can flat-out shoot the ball,” said Lubec boys basketball coach Jason Snider. “It’s not a normal shot, he’s got sideways spin on the ball, but it just goes in.”

Gross, a 5-foot-7 senior guard, has put together a remarkably consistent high school career with the Hornets while becoming the school’s fourth boys basketball player to surpass 1,000 career points.

He played two games at the varsity level as an eighth-grader — Lubec is one of the smallest schools in the state, with a current enrollment of approximately 45 — then averaged 13.4 points in 10 games with the Hornets as a freshman.

He played 10 games again as a sophomore, averaging 21.3 points, then had an identical scoring average in 18 games last winter.

This season, Gross is averaging 22.8 points and three steals per game for an eight-player Lubec team that is contending for a preliminary-round berth in Eastern Maine Class D. The Hornets began the week ranked 11th in the division with a 4-8 record.

What makes those averages even more impressive is the fact that over the last three seasons rival teams in the Downeast Athletic Conference and beyond have known the key to Lubec’s offense even before they developed game plans to counter Gross’s perimeter play.

“He sees a lot of double-teams trapping him up top,” said Snider. “He could be a lot better if he took it to the basket more, but he settles for the jumper because he makes it.

“Sometimes he’s 5 or 6 feet behind the arc when he shoots it, and that’s fine with me as long as he makes it. Teams will let him take that shot because they don’t want to go out that far to guard him.”

Gross has made as many as seven 3-pointers in a game this season, and had three last Friday when he eclipsed 1,000 career points with a 30-point uprising against East Grand of Danforth. With the performance, Gross joined Paul Cook, Mark Jones and Billy Blake as Lubec boys basketball players to reach the milestone.

But much of his improvement in recent years has come at the opposite end of the court.

“I told him that he needed to be a leader and communicate on defense,” said Snider, whose team returns to action Wednesday with a road — and ferry — trip to North Haven. “He’s really done that.”

Brothers in the backcourt

A 54-17 victory over Central of Corinth on Monday night extended the Hermon boys basketball team’s winning streak to eight games.

It’s a run traced to several factors, among them a positional switch between brothers in the Hawks’ backcourt.

Junior Colton Gross began the season as Hermon’s point guard, but as the season has developed he’s moved over to the wing, while younger brother Taylor Gross, a sophomore, has assumed point guard duties.

The duo was at its best last Friday, combining for 36 points and 11 of 14 shooting from the free-throw line as 10-2 Hermon avenged a season-opening loss with a 55-41 victory at Ellsworth.

“My brother and I switch roles on and off,” said Colton Gross. “Both of us can handle the ball equally well, but right now I’ve been trying to work on my attacking game from the wing. I’m trying to contribute as much as I can for the team from the wing, and Taylor’s doing very well, he’s been very calm at the point.”

Another key for the Hawks has been their commitment to new coach Mark Reed’s defensive philosophy. Since allowing 73 points in its loss to Ellsworth, Hermon has yielded more than 43 points in a game only once — 56 points in its only other loss to 12-1 Presque Isle.

During its current winning streak, the Hawks have allowed an average of just 35.1 points per game.

“The kids have been great in terms of buying in to what we’re trying to do,” said Reed, who came to Hermon after eight seasons at Brewer. “That 73-72 loss was a really good teaching tool. I think in the past the kids were accustomed to more uptempo play, which wasn’t bad because we had really good skills that we could use, but in that particular game against Ellsworth I thought we fell into a cycle of just trading baskets.

“It’s one of those things where you try to help them understand that you’re not going to win games as frequently as you want to if your trading baskets, and they’ve done a good job of understanding that.”

Hermon, which began the week ranked fifth in the Eastern Maine Class B Heal point ratings, is idle until heading to Aroostook County on Saturday for a pointworthy battle with 10-4 Caribou. The Vikings are seventh in Eastern B.

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